California Dreaming on a Winter’s Day

California vacation Winter 2014

Summary

We recently traveled to Northern California for a short vacation (February 27 through March 5).  While their we visited Lake Tahoe, Napa and Sonoma Valleys, and San Francisco.  

Lake Tahoe on a Cold Winter's Day

Lake Tahoe on a Cold Winter’s Day

Lesson learned on this trip: It does not pay to worry.  Having worked in the Bay area for several years I remember the passes over the Sierra’s were often closed in the Winter or only open to vehicles with chains. In the days before our trip I worried the passes would not be open because of inclement weather.  In fact the passes were closed several days the week before the trip only heightening my angst. To top it off the passes were closed the morning of our departure due to a snow storm.  Thus we boarded the plane wondering if the passes would be open when we landed. 

Well, I was worried about the wrong problem.  Our 9:30 AM flight was not air born until 4:30PM CST!  We boarded the plane some 4 hours late because of a mechanical problem.  After we boarded they discovered another problem. by the time that problem was rectified the flight crew had reached their on-duty limit and disembarked the plane.  We had to wait for another flight crew.  We finally landed in San Francisco 6PM west coast time.

After picking up the rental car we drove into San Francisco, across the Bay Bridge, through Oakland and its suburbs,  and over the Sierras to Lake Tahoe.  Fortunately the Sierra pass on U.S. 50 was open that evening and we arrived at our destination shortly after midnight.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Condo Friday Morning

Lake Tahoe Condo Friday Morning

We awoke the next morning to heavy snow over which the locals were elated. Turns out they were in the midst of a two year drought and this was the first good snow fall for them this season. No snow is not healthy for a ski resort.

We don’t ski but we had a great time at Tahoe anyway:

  • Watched the snow fall from the comfort of our Condo or a great wine bar
  • Drove around the lake on a Sunny day with snow piled high everywhere
  • Strolled downtown South Lake Tahoe watching the people
  • Spent one afternoon sipping wine at the Apres Wine Company . Unfortunately their web site says they are going out of business on April 20th.
  • Ate several delicious breakfasts at Red Hut Cafe  and the Driftwood Cafe 

Santa Rosa

Napa Oyster Bar

Napa Oyster Bar

Santa Rosa was our next stop after Lake Tahoe. We used it as a hub to tour Napa and Sonoma.

At Merryvale, Clos Pegase,  and Titus  we enjoyed private tours thanks to Chris Morrow (our son-in-law).

  • There is really no comparison between sitting in a 20,000 gallon wine barrel at Merryvale tasting reserves with just your hostess as opposed to standing at a bar with a dozen or so other people slurping up the economy vintages.
  • Or touring the caves 200 feet under the surface of Clos Pegase where they age the wine.
  • Or sitting in the Titus farm house at a 100 year old dining room table next to a wood burring furnace.

We also stopped at two of Gwen’s favorites: Milot, Peju  just to order wine to be shipped home.

Unfortunately for me, the Titus lady told Gwen about an olive oil shop in the Village of Napa named Lucero. Of course we had to stop there and another shipment home ensued.  The bad news is she really loved their olive oil.  The good news is they ship free when the orders are $100 or more.

The Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch is adjacent to Merryvale tasting room is a great lunch spot.  Its also very crowded.  We arrived at 11:30 AM and they were booked solid for the entire day.  However we looked so disappointed the hostess hinted that setting at the bar was on a first come first serve. So we ambled over to the bar and were sitting down ordering lunch 10 minutes later.  I had some combination arugula, roasted brussels sprouts, goat cheese salad that was great. They grow their own veggies right on the premises.  While eating we watched a man harvesting greens in the garden between the restaurant and the highway.

On our second day in the area we lunched at Redd Wood in Yountville. Recommend it also.

The Russian River Brewing Company is in downtown (not sure) Santa Rosa.  We decided to try it out on Sunday night thinking Sunday would be a slow night for a combination microbrewery/pizza joint.  How wrong we were.  The wait was 45 minutes to sit down.  However the beer tasted great and the pizza was delicious.

Sebastopol and Bodega Bay

We left Santa Rosa bound for San Francisco and traveled the scenic route through Sebastopol, Bodega Bay on the coast and down Highway 1 across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. 

Florence street in Sebastopol is a must see.  Strange yard art in every front lawn

Florence Street Yard Art

Florence Street Yard Art

We arrived at Bodega Bay just before lunch.  It’s a picturesque village on along the banks of the bay.  We ate lunch at  “The Tides Wharf Restaurant and Bar” to a stunning view of the bay. Of course its seafood and very good or I would not recommend it. 

After lunch we headed down California Highway 1 expecting a very scenic drive down the coast.  I was disappointed.  Gwen would have been but she slept most of the way.  We did not see the coast except for one bay until we reached Stinson Beach just north of Muir woods.  Next time I’ll take the straight route to the city.

Coast at Bodega Bay

Coast at Bodega Bay

San Francisco

Chocolate Yummy!

Chocolate Yummy!

We arrived in San Francisco mid-afternoon and proceeded to our hotel, the Argonaut Hotel at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf.  During past visits to the city we’ve stayed at budget hotels or our Wyndham time share. They were all good but the Argonaut was great! Its a luxury hotel with free wifi, a perk only other nerds would understand. It’s at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf district a block from the cable car terminus and Ghirardelli’s Marketplace.

We mostly just walked Fisherman’s Wharf and surrounding neighborhoods because we had one afternoon and evening in the city and then flew out the next day.  

Dinner was at Fog Harbor Fish House at Pier 39.  Are there any bad restaurants in San Francisco? If so, I’ve never found one.  Of course we tend to study the restaurant reviews before trying out a restaurant. Maybe I should try a restaurant that gets bad reviews. 

The next morning we bade a fond farewell to the land of milk and honey after a great breakfast at the Argonaut restaurant and headed home.  The good news was the plane was on time flying home!

The coast at Stinson Beach Overlook

The coast at Stinson Beach Overlook

 

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